Today, we catch up with 2011 American Family Insurance ALL-USA football player Malcolm Brown of Steele (Cibolo, Texas), who is a junior running back at the University of Texas. For more than 30 years, USA TODAY has recognized the nation's top high school athletes. We are digging into the archives and checking in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades.
Texas junior running back Malcolm Brown's emergence the past few weeks is a good analogy for the Longhorns' season. Like the team that he plays for, he went from highly rated to nearly forgotten and back.
Brown was considered one of the top running backs in the country when he signed with Texas in 2011. His first season, he led the Longhorns with 742 yards despite missing the team's final three regular-season games with a foot injury.
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Four games into last season, he injured his ankle against Oklahoma State. By the time he returned five games later, he had to get in line behind Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray, who like Brown, had been an ALL-USA running back in high school. Brown carried the ball only 21 times in Texas's final four games.
Brown grew up on Air Force bases, living in Mississippi, Florida, Turkey, Guam and Washington, D.C., before his family moved to Cibolo, Texas, in 2005. He wasn't brought up to complain and kept his mouth shut when he was often the odd back out this season.
He had 109 receiving yards in the Longhorns' season-opening defeat of New Mexico State, but had only three carries in the team's next two games, both losses, to Brigham Young and Mississippi. In the Longhorns' past five games, all wins, he's rushed for an average of 68 yards a game, culminating in a 109-yard, four-touchdown performance last week against Kansas.
"I was just trying to keep on grinding and keep on working," Brown said. "I feel like I can do multiple things. This year, I've taken pride of being the guy for short yardage and grinding out every carry I can."
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While he missed eight games in his first two seasons with injuries, Brown got encouragement from his father, Tommy, who played junior college football in Mississippi, and the rest of his family, including his older brother Keith, who played football at Incarnate Word.
"My family is always there," Brown said. "They're my support system. My parents have done a great job of raising me. They told me to keep doing what I've been doing and that's what I've done this year. Keep your focus and things will come through. Eventually, you'll do what you want to do for the team and that's what's happening this year."
Texas coach Mack Brown, in his weekly press conference, said that his junior running back has kept a positive attitude throughout his and the team's trials. Texas is 6-2 heading into a game this Saturday at West Virginia and is getting votes in several polls.
"He is a guy who says very little," the coach said. "It's, 'Yes sir' or 'No sir' and that's the way he was raised. He's had a very difficult time because when he's been healthy, he's played very well and then all of a sudden, he's been lost for weeks. … He's happy right now. He's excited for the success of the team."
While the 6-foot, 220-pound Brown is known for his bruising running style, he said he doesn't think his manner of playing has led to his injuries.
"The ankle injury that I had last year was just out of my control," Brown said. "Somebody just landed on my foot. I've already spent more time than I planned on in the training room in my career."